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Philippine government, communists to resume talks.

Summary: Talks had stalled because some of the negotiators were facing criminal charges including murder

Gilbert P. Felongco, Correspondent

Manila: Formal peace negotiations between Philippine communists and the incoming administration of President Rodrigo Duterte are expected start next month in Norway following an agreement to resume the talks by both sides.

Jesus Dureza incoming Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process to Duterte, said in a Facebook post that talks in Oslo, Norway with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) are due to start by the third week of July.

Dureza, together with incoming government panel chairman government Silvestre Bello III and former Congressman Hernani Braganza, met with NDFP chair Luis Jalandoni, NDFP political consultant Jose Maria Sison, as well as Fidel Agcaoili.

The meeting was held in the presence of Norwegian Ambassador Elizabeth Slattum, Special Envoy to the Philippine peace process.

Norway had played the role as third party negotiator in the on-off peace negotiations for more than 20 years.

Earlier, Duterte, as part of his presidential campaign promises, had vowed to resume formal peace negotiations with the communist-led NDFP. The impending resumption of the talks follows a several-years hiatus caused by disagreements over the matter of the release of peace negotiators from the custody of the government.

The negotiators had been slapped with criminal charges including murder and thus, it had not been that easy to secure their release for the sake of the talks.

Under the incoming administration however, Duterte had promised to give a second look at the cases of the detained peace negotiators.

Participation of the detained negotiators is critical to the peace process because these people have a deep understanding of the 47-year-old Communist Party of the Philippines and New Peoples' Army led rebellion, and have the eloquence to argue for their cause, sources said.

Dureza had played a part in previous peace negotiations by the NDFP with the then administration of President Fidel Ramos. During the latter's tenure from 1992-1998, the government and the NDFP were able to hammer out the agreement on Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantee (JASIG), a covenant that provides blanket immunity from arrest to negotiators, as well as other compacts.

According to a joint statement issued by the NDFP and negotiators led by Dureza, the parties had initially agreed on accelerating the negotiations to include a timeline for the completion of the remaining substantive agenda for the talks.

These "substantive agenda" include discussions on socioeconomic reforms, political economic and constitutional reforms and disposition of forces.

The parties also agreed to discuss a possible amnesty proclamation for all the detained political prisoners subject to the concurrence of Congress.

The mode of interim ceasefire will also be discussed in coming parlays.

The resumption of talks promises to be a major breakthrough in the decades old conflict.

The communist insurgency has caused the loss of lives of thousands of Filipinos throughout the nearly four decade conflict and had left areas, especially in rebel infested areas, under developed.

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Geographic Code:4EXNO
Date:Jun 16, 2016
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